Let’s be honest: There is no jolly old elf with flying reindeer who slides down chimneys and leaves gifts for every good little Christian boy and girl on Earth. That’s ridiculous.

But then…where do the presents come from?

Here’s our theory: There is, in fact, a non-supernatural Santa. It’s a transnational corporation with one mission-critical fulfillment goal: Every kid who celebrates the holiday gets a toy on Christmas eve.

WIRED spoke with business process consultants, surveillance experts, shipping pros, and a former Navy SEAL to piece together the basic outlines of the operation — focusing, for purposes of this exposé, on points of service in the continental US. From command and control at the North Pole to secret manufacturing facilities in China and Eastern Europe, from the Pacific shipping lanes to the deployment of domestic-access operatives, Santa owns the silent night. With NSA surveillance tech, they see you when you’re sleeping, and they know when you’re awake. They know when you’ve been bad or good — thanks to algorithms that make Google look like Pong. You better not shout. You better not cry. Operation Santa is coming to town.

Hover your cursor over the titles for more details on how Operation Santa does its jolly work.

Infographic by Bryan Christie Design | Photos: It’s a Wonderful Life: Everett Collection; Chrysler Building: skyscraperpage.com

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How the Magic of Christmas Could Work Without Any Magic